The French government has pressed ahead once again with the privatisation of Societe Francaise de Production (SFP), the massive studios and facilities group that has been a cash-swallowing albatross around its neck.
The plan is due to be formalised in the next few days, presented to works committees and completed by the end of June. It is likely to involve some job losses and possibly the transfer of some staff to public broadcaster France Television, said the Culture Ministry. However, the government has not yet identified a buyer. An outright sale to France Television, the preferred solution of most of SFP's staff, has already been ruled out - although some form of management buyout remains a possibility.
This is not the first time that the state has tried to dispose of the permanently loss-making business: it attempts to do so in 1996 were scotched when Lionel Jospin's government was elected. Despite being given a $286.7m (FFr2.15bn) state cash injection in 1998, SFP last year lost close to $10.7m (FFr80m). Unions blame over-capacity in the broadcast facilities sector and growing competition from abroad.